Ukraine stands firm in Crimea, wants Russia in all areas – KGET 17

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s foreign minister said Thursday that his country will not back down from its demand that Russia withdraw its forces from Crimea, as well as other parts of Ukraine illegally annexed by Moscow recently, to end the war.

Calling the conflict in Ukraine “a bleeding wound in the middle of Europe”, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said all of his country’s territory must be treated equally in relations with the Kremlin after its full-scale invasion more than 13 months ago.

“We are united by the principles of the UN charter and the shared belief that Crimea is Ukraine and will return to Ukrainian control,” Kuleba said, speaking via video link at a rally in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

“Every time you hear anyone from any part of the world say that Crimea is somehow special and should not be returned to Ukraine, like any other part of our territory, you must know one thing: Ukraine categorically disagrees with that statements”, he said at the Conference on Security in the Black Sea.

Russia took over Crimea in 2014 and expanded its presence there during the current war. Since then, there have been occasional acts of sabotage and other attacks on Russian military and other facilities on the peninsula, and the Kremlin blames Ukraine. The Kiev government has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, but welcomes efforts to deny Russia’s presence there.

The Kremlin wants Kiev to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea and to recognize the September annexation of the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporozhye.

Ukraine has rejected those demands and will not hold talks with Russia until Moscow’s troops withdraw from all occupied territories.

Although there are no signs of possible peace talks, the two countries have sporadically exchanged prisoners of war and engaged in a wartime agreement to export Ukrainian grain and Russian grain and fertilizer. The grain deal has helped ease concerns about global food supplies, particularly in countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where many are already struggling with hunger.

The agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey last July, is delicate, however, and subject to constant threats from Moscow to end it.

In the latest dispute, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that there would be no discussion on extending the Black Sea Grain Agreement beyond May 18 until progress is made on what it called “five systemic problems” resulting from sanctions on Russia over war.

The statement said the issues were the reconnection of the state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank with the SWIFT international banking system; renewal of delivery of agricultural machinery, spare parts and services to Russia; abolition of restrictions on insurance and reinsurance and prohibition of access to ports; restoration of the operation of the Tolyatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline; and the unblocking of foreign funds and accounts of Russian companies related to the production and transportation of food and fertilizers.

Russia agreed last month to extend the grain deal by 60 days — instead of the 120 days provided for in the previous extension — to send a warning signal to the West.

On the battlefield, military analysts say, an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive in the coming months could target the land corridor between Russia and Crimea, hoping to split Russian forces in two.

That would be a formidable military challenge. Satellite images show Kremlin forces digging extensive trench systems in the area between mainland Ukraine and the Black Sea peninsula.

The fighting in recent months has become a war of attrition, with neither side able to gain momentum over the winter and often resorting to long-range bombing.

At least four civilians were killed and 11 wounded in the latest Russian barrages that continued to hit civilian infrastructure, the Ukrainian president’s office said Thursday.

The Ukrainian military announced that Russian forces had carried out 32 airstrikes, two missile strikes and 40 attacks from multiple rocket launchers in the previous 24 hours.

In other developments:

— Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has opened an investigation into a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier that surfaced online this week, according to the government department’s press service. It said it intended to “assess the reliability of these materials”. On Wednesday, Ukraine also launched an investigation into what it said was the latest atrocity blamed on Russia since its February 2022 invasion.

— A Russian mine exploded near the generator room in one of the reactors at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which was occupied by Russia, Ukrainian state nuclear operator Energoatom said. “Russian occupiers continue to turn the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant into a military base, mining the perimeter around the power plant,” Energoatom wrote on Telegram. “According to sources, the explosion occurred near the engine room of the fourth unit,” the company announced.

Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has six reactors, all of which were shut down last year. The UN Atomic Energy Agency has been trying for months to reach an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to secure the plant, whose reactors and other equipment still require external power to operate safety systems.

___ Associated Press writers Stephen McGrath in Bucharest, Romania, and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at

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